Are index funds worth buying?
The Bottom Line
Index funds are considered one of the smartest types of investments, and for good reason. Investing in index funds has long been considered one of the smartest investment moves you can make. Index funds are affordable, enable diversification, and tend to generate attractive returns over time.
Attractive returns: Like all stocks, major indexes will fluctuate. But over time indexes have made solid returns, such as the S&P 500's long-term record of about 10 percent annually. That doesn't mean index funds make money every year, but over long periods of time that's been the average return.
The average stock market return is about 10% per year, as measured by the S&P 500 index, but that 10% average rate is reduced by inflation. Investors can expect to lose purchasing power of 2% to 3% every year due to inflation.
Disadvantages include the lack of downside protection, no choice in index composition, and it cannot beat the market (by definition). To index invest, find an index, find a fund tracking that index, and then find a broker to buy shares in that fund.
While indexes may be low cost and diversified, they prevent seizing opportunities elsewhere. Moreover, indexes do not provide protection from market corrections and crashes when an investor has a lot of exposure to stock index funds.
Even the top investors put their money in index funds.
In fact, a number of billionaire investors count S&P 500 index funds among their top holdings. Among those are Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, Dalio's Bridgewater, and Griffin's Citadel.
The point isn't to compare active and passive strategies, but rather to make sure you understand that index funds aren't necessarily safe investments. You can lose money if investments in the index lose value. Since many of those indices are financial markets, you should expect them to go down from time to time.
Much of it, yes, but not entirely. In a broad-based sell-off of a market, the benchmark index will lose value accordingly. That means an index fund tied to the benchmark will also lose value.
Are Index Funds Safe Long-Term? The short answer is yes: index funds are still safe in the long term. Only the right index funds are safe. There may be some on the market that you want to avoid.
What is the 80 20 rule for index funds?
When building a portfolio, you could consider investing in 20% of the stocks in the S&P 500 that have contributed 80% of the market's returns. Or you might create an 80-20 allocation: 80% of investments could be lower risk index funds while 20% might could be growth funds.
Ideally, you should stay invested in equity index funds for the long run, i.e., at least 7 years. That is because investing in any equity instrument for the short-term is fraught with risks. And as we saw, the chances of getting positive returns improve when you give time to your investments.
Once you have $1 million in assets, you can look seriously at living entirely off the returns of a portfolio. After all, the S&P 500 alone averages 10% returns per year. Setting aside taxes and down-year investment portfolio management, a $1 million index fund could provide $100,000 annually.
One of the main reasons is that some investors believe they can outperform the market by actively selecting individual stocks or actively managed funds. While this is possible, it is not easy, and many studies have shown that the majority of active investors fail to beat the market consistently over the long term.
ETFs are more tax efficient than index funds because they are structured to have fewer taxable events. As mentioned previously, an index mutual fund must constantly rebalance to match the tracked index and therefore generates taxable capital gains for shareholders.
Individual stocks tend to be far more volatile than fund-based products, including index funds. This can mean a bigger chance for upside … but it also means considerably greater chance of loss. By contrast, the diversified nature of an index fund generally means that its performance has far fewer peaks and valleys.
While it's true that index funds have historically provided solid returns, it's important to remember that past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Blindly putting all of your savings into index funds without considering other investment options or your personal financial goals could be a mistake.
It might actually lead to unwanted losses. Investors that only invest in the S&P 500 leave themselves exposed to numerous pitfalls: Investing only in the S&P 500 does not provide the broad diversification that minimizes risk. Economic downturns and bear markets can still deliver large losses.
Investing in funds, such as exchange-traded funds and low-cost index funds, is often less risky than investing in individual stocks — something that might be especially attractive during a recession.
The two investments held in Berkshire Hathaway's portfolio that Buffett recommends more than anything else are two S&P 500 index funds. The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSEMKT: SPY) and the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (NYSEMKT: VOO).
What is Warren Buffett's rate of return?
|Warren Buffett Portfolio
|All time Stats (Since Jan 1871)
|Last Update: 31 January 2024
|Average Proportion of Total Wealth
|Primary and Secondary Homes
- Vanguard Real Estate ETF (VNQ 1.05%) ...
- iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF (ITOT 0.21%) ...
- Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLP -0.43%) ...
- iShares 0-3 Month Treasury Bond ETF (SGOV 0.04%) ...
- Vanguard Utilities ETF (VPU -1.05%) ...
- iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF (IHF 0.52%) ...
- Schwab U.S. TIPS ETF (SCHP -0.12%)
Experts agree that for most personal investors, a portfolio comprising 5 to 10 ETFs is perfect in terms of diversification.
Index funds can be sold anytime if you are with a legitimate broker. However, in general, you should only sell your index funds when the market is up; otherwise, you could lose money. Moreover, index funds aren't short-term investments. So, only invest the money that you won't likely need soon.